NGOs lodge complaint against Turkey for crimes in Syria’s Afrin

QAMISHLI, Syria (North Press) – Two human rights organizations, one local and the other European, filed on Thursday a criminal complaint with the German Federal Public Prosecutor’s Office against Turkey and its affiliated armed opposition factions, aka the Syrian National Army (SNA), for committing crimes in the Kurdish region of Afrin in northwestern Syria. 

Both the Syrians for Truth and Justice (STJ) and the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR) filed the compliant to address the crimes that have been committed in Afrin since 2018 by the Turkish forces and their backed SNA factions. 

“Afrin’s population, and especially its Kurdish citizens, have faced widespread and systematic violations since 2018. These abuses range from forced disappearances, arbitrary arrests and torture, to sexual violence. The seizure of the local population’s property through looting and occupation as well as exorbitant taxes prevent the displaced inhabitants of Afrin from returning to their homes and is intended to force those who remain to flee,” explains Bassam al-Ahmad, STJ Executive Director. 

On Jan. 20, 2018, the Turkish forces along with the SNA factions launched a military operation dubbed “Olive Branch” on Afrin region under the pretext of protecting Turkey’s national security. The operation led to fierce clashes with the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) and lasted for two months. It resulted in the occupation of Afrin, the killing and injury of thousands, and the displacement of about 300,000 of the original people. However, those who chose to remain on their homeland and not to flee, have been subjected to widespread human rights violations.     

“These human rights violations committed by pro-Turkish and Islamist militias are crimes under international law and can be investigated anywhere in the world,” the STJ and the ECCHR said in a press release. “Together with six survivors of the crimes, STJ, ECCHR and their partners filed a criminal complaint with the German Federal Public Prosecutor’s Office on 18 January 2024, calling for a comprehensive investigation of the perpetrators.”   

“Three years after my release from prison, I still find myself in a painful nightmare. Everything I experienced in Afrin was cruel. Because I know that the population still has to live in similar conditions, I have dedicated my life to bring the injustice to the attention of the world, in the hope that justice will be done and that the perpetrators will be held accountable,” said one survivor and complainant.    

The release pointed out that the suffering of the Kurdish population in Afrin has not yet been addressed. “Since 2011, the Federal Public Prosecutor’s Office has been investigating many human rights crimes committed in Syria. The trial on Syrian state torture before the Koblenz Higher Regional Court was groundbreaking. However, the atrocities committed by predominantly Islamist militias against the Kurdish population in northern Syria have so far been a blind spot in these investigations. This must change, as the militias ruling in Afrin have established a reign of violence and arbitrariness with Turkish support,” said Patrick Kroker, lawyer from ECCHR.  

By Jwan Shekaki